Morit international school, located in Ajengunle, one of the squalid areas in Lagos, Nigeria, is making education affordable for low-income families in the community. Aside from providing access to affordable education and reducing the rising number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, Morit international school is also creatively solving the mounting health and environmental challenges caused by the prodigious tons of plastic waste that have become a significant national identity in Nigeria.
According to the 2022 UNESCO Report, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the most out-of-school children with a total of 98 million, with 20 million from Nigeria alone.
The 2022 poverty report by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics indicated that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, representing 63% of persons living in Nigeria and ranking Nigeria as the world’s poverty capital.
Voice of America recently reported that Nigeria generates an estimated 32 million tons of solid waste per year, of which plastics waste constitute 2.5 million tons, while local media reported that Lagos alone generates 450,000 MT of plastics wastes annually.
With these unpleasant data staring glaringly at the country, many citizens are looking for innovative ways to tackle this prevalent challenge. Following the quest to develop solutions, Teacher, Patrick Mbamarah, began searching for a way to ameliorate the problem while providing quality and less costly education for the children of poor families in Ajengunle, Nigeria.
He founded Morit international school, also known as Green Mind Academy, in 2015, and set the tuition fees very low.
“In the past, I used to have challenges collecting school fees from the parents but later realized that these parents genuinely did not have the money and wanted to make sure their children are educated,” said Mbamarah.
Not willing to give up his dream of providing affordable education for the poor community, he researched alternative means to raise funds, which brought his attention to the perennial problem confronting the community.
“I thought, ‘why not create one solution for both problems?’. I have an upbringing in recycling; my mother reused plastic bottles and nylons. So I knew there was a solution there, I just had to find it,” he explained.
Patrick developed the Recycles Pay Education Project in 2009 and collaborated with two regular companies – African Cleanup Initiative and Wecyclers, for a two-year partnership that lifted the burden of fee payment from parents, enabling them to exchange plastic bottles for tuition fees. By 2021, more recycling businesses reached out to the school and joined the initiative.
“When I saw what he was doing, I knew I needed to be part of it. He already had an agreement with some estates to give him access to a collection point, so what we do is pick up the recyclables in the Island area of Lagos at designated times. We weigh them and give cash in return for the PET bottles,” said Dolapo Olusanmokan, CEO Alon Green.
This initiative has successfully helped many families financially and kept many children in school.
When a neighbor recommended Morit international school to Ijeoma Obiora, she doubted that a school would accept plastic waste for school fees, however, her 13-year-old daughter is now a bonafide student of the school.
Academically, the school is very good for my daughter, who’s now in JSS 1. Financially, it removes my worries about having to provide education for her on a stringent budget,” says Obiora. “These days, the first thing I do when I see a plastic bottle that has been thrown away is to pick it up. I don’t even think twice, the only thing on my mind is collecting waste to take to school,” said Ijeoma.
Mrs. Montala said she initially felt embarrassed at the idea of picking up plastic waste on the street and exchanging them to educate her children.
“Before now I used to feel shy picking the PET bottles,” she said. “But now, I have seen value in those waste plastic bottles. Paying school fees is not an easy thing for me and the PET bottle idea has actually reduced this burden for my family. We have no stress running after school fees anymore, we now use [the] little profit we get from the yams to feed and take care of the household.”
Patrick expressed his happiness over the initiative, which values one naira to one plastic bottle. According to him, the school is now oversubscribed.
“I grew up here. This is my way of giving back to my community. Nigeria has an excessive number of out-of-school children. That bothered me, therefore I decided to provide affordable education, no matter what, and that means pushing through any difficulties. I am passionate about what I am doing,” said Mbamarah.